1984, George Orwell

1984 is a book about a near-future dystopian world where nothing is secret from the government. The theme of book is an illustration of what can happen in a totalitarian system of government, much like North Korea today.

My impressions from this book are numerous so I will shed some insight onto a few areas that impacted me most. A large part of the book is dedicated to the travails of censorship. Winston Smith, the main protagonist, works in the “Ministry of Truth” which edits newspaper articles whenever the government changes it’s mind. For example, the nation Oceania has been at war with Eurasia for years, until the government decided that it was at war with Eastasia. Winston’s job is to go through all the previous articles written about the war with Eurasia and change it to Eastasia.

I particularly enjoyed the ending (so if you haven’t read the book and would not like a spoiler.. stop reading!). Winston gets captured by the thought police and gets taken in for “retraining.” Here, the antagonist of the story tells Winston that in previous generations, the way to deal with people who did not conform to the government were just imprisoned. Ideologically, this did not correct the thinking of those people, but rather made it fester for years. Under the government in 1984, those who think counter to the government are subjected to torture until they relinquish to thinking that is aligned with the reigning powers. So Winston under goes a torture experience that is an allegory for the Soviet methods. One popular one was the phrase “2+2=5.” Apparently, the Soviets used this tactic to convince people that if the government said that 2+2=5, then that is how it is. Orwell also discusses the importance of the “war” efforts that were inherently fictitious. This is interesting because nationalism is a large theme in 1984. The purpose of the war efforts were to convince subjects to rally around an opposing force and thus propagate the reputation of the government. Lastly, the turning point at the end of the book was the denunciation of his love for Julia, an intimate mate whom he met. He was faced with a torture of facing his worst fear (rats) and betrayed her. This was the final straw in his re-education, showing that the one thing that he believed in was no longer important.

Overall, Orwell’s book brings about several topics that are applicable in our society today: that of censorship, nationalism, etc. These reappear throughout history and will continue to impact our thoughts into the future.

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